view sourceprint? 01 Ramblings from a Ranch Wife

Random Thought:

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars"

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

There's Nothing Romantic or Poetic About Being a Cowboygirl

There's nothing romantic or poetic about doctoring calves in a foot of snow.  When it's cold, and slick.  And you have to keep the vaccine bottle in your bra so it stays warm enough you can actually draw vaccine out of the bottle when you need it.

There's nothing romantic or poetic (or even cool poems about....) processing yearlings in the rain.  In mud up to your knees.  With wet gloves.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about classing calves in the alley.  In 6 inches of oozy, sticky, gummy mud.  Buried under 8 inches of snow.  One hour before the truck shows up.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about trailing cows down the highway in subzero temperatures.  Leading your horse because you can't feel your feet.  When you can see your breath.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about calving out 1500 heifers.  In 4 weeks.  Twelve hour days.  Each black heifer looks exactly like the black heifer you just rode past.  In January.  By week 2 you won't remember your own name.


It is kind of cool to watch the sun come up over the canyon rim as you trot out of camp in the morning.

There is definitely some poetry in a perfect heel loop that scoops up two feet, or a bridle horse working a cow in a gate.

I'll admit, it is romantic, holding hands with your CowBoss while driving home from the sale after selling a trailer load of your own calves.

I guess drinking Carlo Rossi out of a tin coffee cup by gaslight after a long day doing cowboy stuff is rather romantic and poetic!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Branding at the Neighbors

The best indicator of a good day branding is how dirty the boys are at the end of it, and how long it takes them to fall asleep on the drive home.  I used to judge my day on how many calves I roped, how my horse handled, or how good the company was.  Now I can miss every loop, have my horse’s nose straight up in the air, or fall off in the branding trap (that hasn’t happened yet!) and it won’t bother me too much, as long as the boys have a good time.  It has been so much fun watching them grow in our ranching community.  Funny how your perspective changes as you grow up!

During Spring Break we went to one of the best brandings that the Cow Boss and I have been to in a long time.  We helped Kevin and Kristi Tomera brand a few calves.  The thing that made this branding so much fun?  The ground crew and half the ropers were all kids.  They ranged in age from 5 to about 16 years old and they worked hard! The older kids took turns roping, and the rest of them raced each other to wrassle the calves.  I thought a fight was going to break out a time or two over who got to the calf first and got to sit on it.  It was chaos.  It was loud.  It was windy.  It was wonderful!

TR worked his tail off.  He held the feet on a few calves on QT’s trusty stead “Knothead.”  He got in some good practice dallying and keeping the rope tight.  These old ranch horses are worth their weight in gold.  “Knothead” took pretty good care of TR, and kept him out of a couple of wrecks.  TR carried the nut bucket for a while, and hustled between calves, calling out “heifer!” or “bull!” to keep the castrator on task.  He even wrassled a couple of little calves by himself.  He did good! 

QT.  QT kept track of the girls.  He’s quite the ladies’ man these days.  If you can’t find him, just look for some girls, and there is a pretty good chance he isn’t too far away.  They keep a pretty good eye on him, which was good because mom stole his horse to rope on.  When I told him I would be keeping “Knothead” for myself and he would need to find a different horse to ride he informed me “You can’t have Knothead!  I love that horse!”  I think we all do.

I’m not really sure how the Cow Boss did, or how many calves I roped.  I was too busy watching all of the kids work.  It was a long, windy, dusty day, and we were exhausted when we got home.  The boys were almost asleep when we got to the ranch, and yes, they were filthy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Day the Leppy Went to School

We have a Charolais leppy bull calf, and he is kind of a big deal.  His uncle was the Grand Champion Charolais Bull at the American Royal this past November.  “Taylor” as the boys call him has some pretty big shoes to fill.  He comes from Small Charolais of Mountain City, where he would still be if he wasn’t an orphan.  His mom died shortly after he was born, and where my sister commutes from Boise on the weekends, we inherited him to feed for the time being.  Apparently home owners associations around Boise frown on cattle in your yard, no matter how big your yard is!

Truth be told, we are suckers for strays and leppies.  Taylor the Charolais has taken some getting used to.  The horses and dogs just don’t know what to think of him, he’s the wrong color. I hate to admit it, but he has kind of grown on me.  While his white hair will never compare to the eye appeal of a Black Angus, he definitely has personality.  I know we aren’t supposed to make him too gentle, but it is pretty hard not to when you are hand feeding him a couple of times a day.  From playing with the boys to putting his nose low enough for the puppy to lick the crumbs off his face, he has character.

Now that the boys are in school, I do a little cowboy/ranching presentation for 3rd graders during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every January.  The schools go all out during the week.  From guest speakers to roping lessons to dress up days, students are encouraged to wear bandanas, jeans, western shirts, and cowboy hats, or what we like to call “our ordinary, everyday clothes.”  They do a really good job with it, and I am happy to report that their students have a pretty good grasp of agriculture and where their food comes from.  This year I took Taylor and made arrangements with TR’s teacher for him to bring his class out to meet his leppy.

My neighbor Rachel helped me.  She borrowed the Beef Byproducts presentation from the Elko County Cattlewomen so we could show students where beef comes from and how the whole cow is used.  I started out showing students Taylor, and explaining what a leppy is, what breed he is, and what he is used for.  Rachel finished up by explaining how when we slaughter a beef animal we use nearly the entire animal, and how each part of a cow is utilized.  It was a really good presentation, we spoke to nearly 125 eight year olds and answered a lot of questions.

After the last group of 3rd graders, it was time for TR and his class.  I had tried to prep him ahead of time so he (and I!) knew what he would tell his class about Taylor.  Granted he is only 7 years old, I thought he was well prepared and I wouldn’t have to say too much, or do too much damage control.
I wish we would have filmed him.  TR marched his class to the horse trailer like a little drill sergeant and lined them up around the door so they could all see the calf.  He hopped up in the trailer, leaned against the wall, cocked a hind leg, and put his thumbs in his belt loops.  Then he watched his classmates.  Finally after a couple of minutes he said “I’m not going to tell you guys anything until you get quiet and listen to ME!”  You could have heard a pin drop.  He had everyone’s attention and then he started his talk. 

TR was in his element.  While we need to work a little on his delivery and PR skills, he did pretty well.  Mom had to prompt him a few times, and cringed when he was a little too enthusiastic in explaining Taylor’s “mother was DEAD!” and that we would be eating him someday.  He spoke loudly, and clearly, and willingly answered 3 questions, additional questions were answered under duress.  All in all it was a good afternoon, the afternoon Taylor went to school.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Winter Break

The boys went back to school on Monday after a good winter break.  TR was ready to go back, QT was reluctant, and I was definitely not ready for my boys to go back to school!  TR is our social butterfly, he lives for recess and being with his friends.  I worry about QT.  As excited as he was for kindergarten, formal school hasn’t been his thing so far.  Most days moving cows in a blizzard sounds like a better idea to him than going to school.  As for me, I prefer having my boys’ home with me.  I spend most of my afternoon counting down the minutes until they come home.  It is pretty quiet around our house without my wild little boys.

That first day back, QT and I were waiting outside the school for his teacher to come and collect him and his classmates.  I felt like we had done a pretty good job keeping up with where his teacher left off for the break, and really wasn’t too worried about him forgetting anything he had learned in school up until now.  I was listening to other parents talk with each other about what school work they did with their kids over the break. Those parents were busy!  They were working on their letters, numbers, and coloring all break long.

Other than bedtime stories, we never cracked a book all vacation.  While QT’s classmates were watching cartoons, he was sledding behind the feed wagon.  While other kindergartners were practicing writing their numbers to 30, QT was counting cows to 50 on the feed ground.  While they were practicing their letters and sounds, QT was recognizing his cow’s name on her ear tag and reading animal tracks, or looking for “M” words like muskrat, mountain, and mud.  We hunted coyotes, set traps, shot our bb guns, and explored a good part of our big backyard.

QT may write his 3’s backwards, or not always color inside the lines and we need to work on that, but he can find his way home from anywhere within a 5 mile radius of the house, can tell the difference between most of our cows and tell you their names (better than I can anyway!), and tell you the difference between a coyote’s and raccoon’s tracks.  Listening to these parents made me think about my teaching choices over the break.

Should I have spent more time working on more traditional school type activities?  Maybe, but at this point I feel that having a son who is aware of his surroundings and has the tools to navigate this world is just as important as being able to color inside the lines.  Education is important, but I want him to experience life from the outside, not based on what he sees on a video game or reads about in a book about someone else’s experiences.  I want him to know how to work, get outside, get dirty, and play.  Let’s face it.  He’s only going to be little once, and he will have plenty of time later to write a book for someone else to read about growing up on a cattle ranch in northern Nevada.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Frosty Cows

Ever take a really cool picture, then get it home and realize there is one of the Cowboss's friend's stupid Corriente cows right in the middle?  Yeah, it sucks.  But I am slightly  jaded because the Corrientes make me crazy.  If there is an open gate, or wrong direction to go, they will do it, and it is usually when you are trying to get the tractor through the gate and keep the Corrientes in and you are by yourself.  You will spend an hour getting out of the tractor, chasing the Corrientes off, opening the gate, running back to the tractor, get almost though the gate before the Corrientes get to it, have to jump out, run them off and try again.  It is a vicious cycle.  Hopefully a neighbor driving by will take pity on you and watch the gate as you drive through.  Most likely, it will be on a day you are hurrying to make it to an appointment in town.  You will be late.  True story.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Out With the Old, in With the New


Where did 2014 go?  It feels like just last week I was sitting down to write my 2014 resolutions and making a plan for the coming year.  Now here we are and it is 2015 and I am trying to figure out where I am and what I want to do for the next year.  I think there will be some big changes for me, and I'm not sure where I want to start.

2014 won't go down as my best year ever.  In March I lost my best horse.  (Yeah, I know it was just a horse and if it doesn't get any closer than the barn, we're alright).  It was a partnership developed over 13 years and I really expected him to be the horse to teach my boys how to rope.  It hurt.  In May, the Cowboss, QT, a couple of cowboys, and I along with a trailer load of horses were in a frightening car accident that we are so blessed (horses included) to have all walked away from.  (Yes, I believe in guardian angels).  Both QT and I can scratch riding in an ambulance off our bucket lists!  Not to be out done, in July we had a 4th ER trip with TR to get stitches in his armpit.  For a bit it felt like we weren't going to catch a break!

Along with the not so great, a lot of great things happened in 2014.  We survived first grade.  That was huge.  At this time last year, we weren't really sure we were going to make it!  QT started Kindergarten and my world didn't end.  Both boys had horses buck with them and they rode them.  I got bucked off, but got back on.  We saw amazing cattle prices and were able to pay off all of our cows.  I got a new dog.  I'm still working on finding the horse that fits me.

As 2014 ends I am happy to report that we survived!  We have made some new friends along the way, learned many lessons (some the hard way!), and are anxious to see what 2015 throws our way because I'm pretty sure we can handle it!  My goals for 2015 are to focus more on myself.  Selfish I know, but I want to be the best wife, mom, and person I can be.  I want to be healthier and happier, so I can be the best person I can.

Happy New Year!  Hope 2015 brings you great things!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nothing Good Can Come From This…..


One of the things I enjoy the most about my boys is how easily entertained they are.  We don’t need any fancy toys because chances are they will rather play with the box the toys came in.  “I’m bored” is not a phrase they use often because if you give them a few rocks, a stick, and their imaginations, the next thing you know, they will be fighting dragons to rescue a princess, in a war with some bad guys, or catapulting rocks at a target (or more likely each other!).  The phrase “What one doesn’t think up the other will” rings true at our house, and you never know what is going to happen next.  Every day is a new adventure.

If you have spent much time around us, you’ve probably heard me say “they may look like me, but they act just like their dad” a time or two, because looking at my boys is like looking in a mirror for me.  That is where the similarities end though.  They are brave, outgoing, adventurous, and thoughtful, just like their dad.

Or so I thought….. Sunday, I got undeniable proof that they may possibly, maybe some days, kind of act like their mom, but just a little bit! 

We went to Mountain City to visit and brand a few calves.  TR and QT scattered, taking their cousin PJ with them just as soon as the car came to a stop.  They were out of sight, but in ear shot.  Before too long they were entertaining themselves and us.  They had found a hill and a red Radio Flyer wagon.  Two would climb into the wagon and then rock it till it would start rolling down the hill.  TR took charge as pilot and would steer with the wagon handle.  Can you see where this is going?  I almost told them that riding the wagon down the hill wasn’t a good idea…  Almost.

It reminded me of a summer a few years back and a couple days spent in Charleston with my sister and Cousins Becky and Kyla.  Our new brother had just arrived and we were letting things settle at home.  Being ranch kids, ages 4-8 we didn’t watch much TV.  We had 100’s of acres to explore, a lot of mischief to find, and not as much supervision as we probably should have had.

Our adventures led us to the barn and the milk cow’s calves one afternoon.  We decided our time and energy would best be served by teaching the calves to pull a wagon.  The girls and I got busy gathering supplies, which included a couple old lass ropes, a can of grain, and you guessed it, a red Radio Flyer wagon.  What we lacked in experience training calves to pull carts, we more than made up in enthusiasm.  This was going to be epic!

In our infinite calf training wisdom we determined that the biggest calf would most likely be the best at pulling a wagon.  We got to work chumming him into the round pen with the bucket of grain.    “Toro” would be the best for pulling a wagon full of girls around the pen.  Once he got pulling the cart mastered, we would drive him up to the house to prove to Auntie how handy we were. Catching Toro was the easy part. Leppies will do anything for grain we learned.  Getting him to stand in place long enough to be tied to the wagon, and actually tying him to the wagon was the challenge.  We had to make a second trip for more grain, but we got it done.

All 4 of us girls climbed into the wagon, got set, and Becky being the oldest assumed driving duties.  She clucked to Toro just like we’d seen our dad’s do to the work horses in the winter.  Nothing happened.  Finally after clucking some more and whacking Toro with the end of the line, all hell broke loose.

Toro lunged ahead and the clatter of the wagon and shrieking of girls must have spooked him pretty good.  He was off like a rocket and Becky and I baled.  Cara and Kyla made it about 2 feet before the wagon rolled and spilled them as well.  Poor Toro made about half a lap around the pen before he finally came clear of the wagon, but had to drag his ropes until chore time came and some adult came to turn him loose.

We had some tears, bumps, bruises, and a few scrapes to bandage, but we survived!  We also learned a valuable lesson.  Milk calves are not good at pulling wagons.  They are pretty much unteachable!

It’s a good thing Aunt Cara doesn’t have a pen of milk calves at her house, and Becky and Kyla’s boys are so far away.  It’s genetic for these wild little ranch kids (on their mother’s sides of course!) to get into mischief with red Radio Flyer wagons.  This time, as long as TR did the driving, things went pretty well.  He kept the wagon balance, upright, and was able to turn the wagon before running into the big mud puddle or hitting the loading chute.  Letting QT drive was what got them into trouble.  He turned too sharp, too soon, spilling himself and PJ.  There were some tears, bumps, bruises, and scrapes to bandage, but to quote TR “We survived!”  The jury is still out on what lesson was learned, other than not to let QT drive!